The holiday season is a special time for getting together with loved ones to make lasting memories with your children.  This is especially important for divorced families.  If you find yourself recently divorced, in a challenging co-parenting relationship, or trying to blend families due to a new relationship, the holiday season may add a layer of stress for you.  Here are some tips to help you manage the holiday season so that you and your child can experience the wonder and joy that this time of year brings.

Tip One: Review your possession order.  You may have standard possession order for holidays, or you may have a customized order.  There are numerous ways to split time with the child during the holiday season with the other parent, and you want to be sure you understand exactly what your schedule entails.  Knowledge is power, and the more you know, the less surprises arise.  It can also help you talk to your child about who the child will be with at specific times during the holiday season.  For example, if you do not have your child this year on Christmas, you can let your child know that you will celebrate together on a different day.

Tip Two:  Talk about gifts with your co-parent.  By doing this you can avoid the child receiving multiples of a particular item.  You should discuss this with your co-parent and other members of your family too.  If the child is with the other parent on Christmas but Santa visits your home, too, it will be much less confusing to the child if Santa leaves different presents for the child at each house.  It will also save you from having to explain what happened to your child because we all know Santa knows and sees everything.

Tip Three:  Keep exchanges of the child stress free.  If you now that someone in your life is a trigger person for the other parent, then keep them out of the child exchange process.  For example, if you are in a new relationship and you know your new person and the other parent do not get along, your new person should not be present at the exchange.  If your new person must be there, having the new person stay in the car or in the house but out of sight is best.  If you and the other parent are having a difficult time, then you can designate a competent adult to handle the exchange for you (assuming your order provides for that).  If you decide to do this, let the other parent know who will be picking the child up instead.

Tip Four: Start a new tradition.  If this is your first year to navigate the holiday season while splitting time with the child with the other parent, this is particularly important and can be a lot of fun.  Children are wise, and they know things are not the same now that you are divorced.  Start making new memories.  Have a cookie decorating contest with your child, make homemade pizzas, get funny slippers to wear around the house, start an ornament collection, or write letters to your child  about things that happened during the year and put it in the child’s stocking.  If your child is old enough, let your child choose a tradition he or she would like to start.

Tip Five: Take care of yourself.  While it is important to help create new memories for your child, you also need to take care of yourself and plan things to do when you are not with your child.  You may find that you are anxious and sad when your child is not with you, especially on the holidays.  It is important to plan some fun things that you enjoy so that you do not focus on the fact they are not with you.  Remember, you still get to celebrate with your child, just in a new and different way.

Blog post by Brandi Crozier

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A recent post in a Texas family lawyers group asked attorneys to share “things you think you wouldn’t have to tell your client not to do during a family law case, but apparently you have to.”  Here are a few of my favorites (and yes, these things have actually happened):

  1. Don’t get someone pregnant (or get pregnant) during your divorce.
  2. Don’t neglect to tell your lawyer that you breed tigers as a hobby and that they are allowed to roam freely throughout your compound, particularly when you are fighting for the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child.
  3. Don’t ever testify “I have absolutely NEVER…” when you did and you’re about to be impeached on it.
  4. Don’t tell the judge “you don’t have the b@lls to put a white woman in jail” and then be surprised when he does.
  5. Don’t take a shot of liquor during your zoom hearing.
  6. Don’t give the judge the finger after he mutes you for talking too much during a zoom hearing.
  7. Don’t send a letter to the judge (and don’t have your church do a letter writing campaign to the judge either).
  8. Don’t tell your lawyer that you most certainly did NOT break into your ex’s house and take stuff right before opposing counsel hits play on a recording of you breaking into your ex’s house and taking stuff.
  9. Don’t get drunk when the kids are with you.
  10. Don’t text the opposing party about what your lawyer said (because it’s almost never what your lawyer actually said).
  11. Don’t e-mail opposing counsel.
  12. Don’t show up to court drunk or high.
  13. Don’t show up to court with a box of sex toys and expect your attorney to introduce them as evidence.
  14. Don’t lie, especially when you put the truth on social media.
  15. Don’t roll a joint and light it up during a zoom hearing.
  16. Don’t threaten to rip off one of the implants she got during the marriage to get your “half.”
  17. Don’t smoke (or vape) in court proceedings, even if they are virtual.
  18. Don’t inject your child with animal grade antibiotics.
  19. Don’t walk around in your underwear during a zoom hearing.
  20. Don’t get engaged to someone else before your divorce is finalized.
  21. Don’t e-mail the court coordinator to complain about how the judge’s ruling is going to get your kids killed.
  22. Don’t record your child.  You think it’s great evidence, but it almost always makes you look bad.
  23. Don’t sext your new paramour unless you want to produce it in discovery.
  24. Don’t try to impress the judge with your cleavage.
  25. Don’t send out formal wedding invitations for your marriage to Wife #2 when your marriage to Wife #1 has not yet been dissolved.
  26. Don’t get your wife’s sister pregnant.
  27. Don’t sit on the toilet while on a zoom hearing.
  28. Don’t bring your new girlfriend to court for your enforcement hearing and let her sit on your lap in the courtroom.
  29. Don’t accuse your wife of assault and then beg her for sex via text message.
  30. Don’t throw your shoes at the judge.
  31. Don’t give your shoes away during the lunch break and come back to trial shoe-less.
  32. Don’t send e-mails or texts to the opposing party saying you “don’t give a f–k what the judge said.”
  33. Don’t wear your Rolex to a child support enforcement hearing.
  34. Don’t leave a message on opposing counsel’s voicemail screaming that the judge can “go suck my knob” numerous times.
  35. Don’t have sex with the opposing party the night before your trial.
  36. Don’t have sex with the person against whom you are seeking a protective order, even if that person promises not to tell.
  37. Don’t get pregnant by someone else in the middle of your divorce and then sleep with your soon-to-be-ex-husband to make him think it’s his.
  38. Don’t change your password to “mywifeisawhore” or anything else you would not want to say out loud while testifying in court.
  39. Don’t set a hearing where you are requesting supervised-only access for your husband and then leave the kids with him the night before so you can go shopping for a new dress to wear to said hearing.
  40. Don’t bring a date to the final  hearing and make out with her in the hallway on a break.
  41. Don’t tell a judge “I’m tired of talking to you” during the hearing.
  42. Don’t duck out of the camera’s view to take puffs on a cigarette during your zoom hearing and then lie to the judge when he confronts you about the cloud of smoke over your head.
  43. Don’t start fertility treatments with your fiancé when you are set for trial in your divorce and one of the stressors in your marriage was infertility.
  44. Don’t leave a voicemail telling your two small children to call their mom a whore, b*tch, and slut over and over, laughing while they say it.
  45. Don’t change the name of the contact in your phone from “Wife” to “B*tch from Hell”(or “Satan’s Little Helper,” “Psychopath,” or “Heinous Monster”), especially if your children talk to her on that phone.
  46. Don’t upload the nude pictures of your spouse to the parenting portal to prove she sent them to you via text.
  47. Don’t appear shirtless for a zoom hearing.
  48. Don’t request a drug test of the other side if you’re on drugs, too.
  49. Don’t read the pleadings to your kids.
  50. Don’t cohabit with a registered sex offender during your custody case and forget to mention it until you are on the stand.
  51. Don’t think that just because you blocked your ex on social media those posts won’t find their way into court.
  52. Don’t write a check to your girlfriend and write “great sex” in the memo line when you are married to someone else.
  53. Don’t buy a house or start a business with your new love while your divorce is pending.
  54. Don’t drive your spouse to the sex club and then complain in court about the fact that she went to the sex club.
  55. Don’t storm off the stand after the judge tells you it is his turn to talk saying “no man is ever going to tell me what to do again” and then tell everyone in the hallway the judge is sexist.
  56. Don’t refer to your husband as a sperm donor.
  57. Don’t give the court an e-mail address that has the words “bigblackc*ck” in it.
  58. Don’t bring your mistress with you to mediation and look appalled when the mediator and your attorney ask her to leave.
  59. Don’t shoot your spouse.
  60. Don’t sleep with your husband’s coworkers.
  61. Don’t do “a little bit of cocaine” on the weekends or on your birthday.
  62. Don’t put a tracking device on the opposing party’s vehicle.
  63. Don’t forget to shower and wear clean clothes before court, especially if you are trying to argue you are not a filthy hoarder whose home will endanger the children.
  64. Don’t complain your wife is having an affair if you are, too.
  65. Don’t call your children’s mom a whore, even if she is.
  66. Don’t ask the judge to award you all of the intimate photos and videos you took of your wife because you consider them to be your property.
  67. Don’t wear workout clothes to court.
  68. Don’t marry a woman whose rights were just terminated by CPS to her own children while you are in the middle of a custody case involving your own.
  69. Don’t tell your teenager about your infidelity in the same conversation where you and your spouse are telling her you are divorcing.
  70. Don’t forget to wear panties to court and flash the court coordinator.
  71. Don’t get drunk in the parking lot before your hearing.
  72. Don’t buy a house with your mistress before the divorce is final with community funds.
  73. Don’t call your mistress as witness #1 as to why you should have custody of your children.
  74. Don’t wear your “world’s greatest dad” t-shirt to your enforcement hearing.
  75. Don’t post “f–k the judge” on Facebook.
  76. Don’t go to your kids’ game and brag to everyone there about the lies you are going to tell about your husband in court.
  77. Don’t make a video saying the judge can eat booty like groceries and then post it on social media during your trial.
  78. Don’t ask the bailiff to pass your number to another offending parent while waiting for your CPS case to start.
  79. Don’t be laying in bed during your zoom hearing.
  80. Don’t marry your pregnant mistress while your divorce is pending and post pictures of the wedding and marriage license on Facebook.
  81. Don’t wear your gun to a divorce hearing.
  82. Don’t wear flip-flops and super short cutoff shorts to court and then yell at your lawyer in the hallway because you didn’t know you shouldn’t wear those things.
  83. Don’t strip in a public bar to celebrate your birthday, regardless of whether or not your kid was at said bar.
  84. Don’t bring home THC infused lube from Colorado and try to have a bunch of relations with your soon-to-be-ex as an attempt to make her test positive for weed.
  85. Don’t wear a necklace with the letters spelling “b*tch” to your custody hearing.
  86. Don’t e-mail the judge a poem where you tell him you’re smarter than him and could have passed the bar if you wanted to without going to law school.
  87. Don’t look at the judge and say, “I am a sweet person d*mnit.  You have got to talk some sense into these vindictive angry emotional women.”
  88. Don’t wear a sequin tube top, spandex and body glitter to court.
  89. Don’t let your key witness at a custody hearing wear a shirt that says “Sexy B*tch” on it.
  90. Don’t no-show for the second scheduled deposition and let your friends tag you on Facebook on a pub crawl at the time you should have been there.
  91. Don’t play the Tammy Wynette song “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” on your iPhone when the judge leaves the courtroom.  He can still hear it from his chambers.
  92. Don’t use videos and photos of your soon-to-be-ex as revenge porn.
  93. Don’t tell your lawyer you don’t do drugs and then admit on the stand you smoked meth a few times with your spouse last month.
  94. Don’t take pictures in court and post them to Facebook during your trial.
  95. Don’t sign an affidavit saying you caught your ex smoking meth and then tell the judge at the emergency hearing that you never told your lawyer you saw her do drugs.
  96. Don’t post on Facebook what a great deal you got in mediation and what a “f-ing loser” your ex is when he hasn’t yet signed the mediated settlement agreement.
  97. Don’t update your Facebook profile to show off your new breast augmentation prior to your hearing on interim attorney’s fees.
  98. Don’t testify you don’t have any idea how you tested positive just before you pass out on the witness stand.
  99. Don’t complain that your soon-to-be-ex was a stripper if you met her in a strip club.
  100. Don’t testify about all of the horrible things your husband did to you and then get mad the judge gave you exclusive use of the house and didn’t order you to live together, yell in the courthouse that “Jesus doesn’t want us to get divorced,” and then promptly dismiss your case.

The next time you find yourself involved in a family law proceeding, keep this list handy!

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Many families find themselves faced with the challenges of separation and divorce. Divorce can be a very stressful time in someone’s life. It is often said to be one of the most difficult transitions a person may face. One way to lessen the stress of the divorce process is for you and your spouse to divorce amicably. Here are five tips to assist anyone who may be interested in proceeding through the divorce process in an amicable manner:

  1. Find an attorney that understands your goal of an amicable divorce. Selecting your counsel is one of the most important decisions you will make during the divorce process. If you would like to minimize the contention during your case, you must ensure you hire an attorney who understands your goals and is capable of keeping your desire for an amicable resolution at the forefront of the process.
  1. Utilize a waiver of service. A waiver of service is a document that can be signed by your spouse after receiving a copy of the Original Petition for Divorce. If the waiver of service is properly executed, you will not have to have your spouse personally served with the petition. No one wants to be personally served. Many individuals going through divorce are served with papers at their place of work or home. This can be embarrassing and will likely make them angry. If your goal is an amicable divorce, it is usually preferable to begin by providing your spouse with a waiver of service to sign. If they refuse to sign the waiver of service, your attorney can then have your spouse personally served.
  1. Go to mediation. Many people are adamant they do not want their case to go to mediation. The general negative feeling towards mediation is often unwarranted. Most courts now require parties to attend mediation prior to the case proceeding to trial. This is because many cases can be resolved by utilizing an impartial third party to help the parties reach a resolution. Settling in mediation will save both sides money and lessen the stress that accompanies trial. In most cases, mediation leads to a better resolution for both sides. This is because mediation allows the parties and attorneys to be creative when creating a solution. When attending mediation be sure you go into the process with an open mind and a positive attitude. If you decide the process will fail before you even begin, the process is more likely to fail. Try to keep the focus on your goals and reaching a resolution both you and your spouse can live with. Remember, no settlement agreement is ever perfect for either side, but it is usually better than what the outcome would be at trial.  Even though it may be tempting, it is not a good idea to go to mediation without an attorney.  The mediator’s job is to get a deal done, and she cannot give you legal advice.
  1. Consider seeing a therapist. The end of a marriage is a very emotional transition for everyone involved. It affects the parties and the children. It is important to be aware of your emotional state and to recognize when you may need the assistance of a therapist or counselor. Many individuals need to be able to speak to someone such as a counselor or therapist to help them through this transition. Dealing with your emotions in a healthy way will assist you in keeping the divorce process amicable and preventing resentment. Divorces surrounded by resentment and anger tend to take longer to resolve and are ultimately more costly for both parties.
  1. Focus on the future. Remember that this is a time of transition. You are transitioning out of your marriage and into the next phase of your life. Focusing on the future is even more important to those who have children. If children are involved, you will continue to have a relationship with your spouse even after the divorce is finalized. There is no better time than the present to begin practicing communicating with the other parent. Even if you and your spouse were not ultimately successful long-term partners, you can still be successful co-parents. Parents who divorce amicably are typically better equipped down the road to resolve parenting disputes without the court intervening. Rather than getting hung up on the minutia, focus on your overall goals. If you hire an attorney who understands your goals, your attorney will be able to assist you with staying focused on what is most important.

Take the time to discuss these points when consulting with an attorney. At The Draper Law Firm, we understand this is a difficult time for you and your family and we are ready to help guide you through the process.

Blog post by Sarah Marrone

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Depending on the circumstances of your divorce or family law case, you may hear the Latin terms “amicus” and “ad litem” referenced by the attorneys or the judge in your case. We’re here to help clarify the purpose of an amicus attorney and an ad litem and explain when it would be beneficial to have either one appointed to your case.

The word “amicus” means “friend of the court.” When an amicus attorney is appointed in your case, it is important to know that the amicus does not represent any of the parties or children involved in the case. Rather, the purpose of an amicus is to gather information and help the court determine what is in the best interest of the child. The amicus will not only interview the parties and the children involved but will likely gather information from any other individuals that have valuable or relevant information. This can include teachers, counselors, doctors or other family members that are not parties to the case. This process allows the amicus to gather a significant amount of information, which can include evidence that may not be admissible in a hearing. Requesting that an amicus be appointed in your case is beneficial when the case is very contentious or involves a question of whether a party may be causing significant impairment or harm to a child.

“Ad litem” means “to represent in litigation.”  There are two types of ad litems we see in family law cases: an attorney ad litem and a guardian ad litem.  Unlike an amicus attorney, an attorney ad litem is appointed to represent the interests of a party.  In Texas, a Court may appoint an attorney ad litem when a party is not capable of representing himself or when a party has been served by publication.  An attorney ad litem is sometimes appointed to represent the child and advocate for what the child wants.  In cases involving CPS, the Court will always appoint an attorney ad litem in order to ensure that the child’s interests are protected.  A guardian ad litem may or may not be an attorney and is appointed to represent the best interests of a child.  Occasionally, a court will appoint an attorney in the dual role if attorney ad litem and guardian ad litem for a child.  In the event there is a conflict between what the child wants and what is in the child’s best interest, both need to be appointed.  CASA often serves as the guardian ad litem for the child in CPS cases in certain counties.

If your custody matter is complex, an amicus attorney or an ad litem may be an important tool to protect the child’s interests. Contact the attorneys at The Draper Law Firm, P.C. We’re ready to help.

Blog post by Shmyla Alam

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Many times I hear potential clients mention the possibility of attending mediation with the opposing party as an alternative to hiring attorneys.  These people generally seem to think that not hiring an attorney is the best way to keep things amicable with the other side.  Unfortunately, these attempts to keep things amicable or keep costs down can often lead to serious problems down the road.

Mediation is a great tool to help get cases resolved when they cannot be settled informally.  Even though many mediators are attorneys, the mediator cannot give legal advice to a party during mediation.  The mediator’s job is to get an agreement reached, not advise the parties as to whether or not a particular agreement is a good idea.  When a party attends mediation without an attorney, that party likely does not know the law, what he or she is entitled to under the law, what is standard and what is not, or if he or she may be making a mistake that can never be fixed.

Hiring an attorney does not prevent you from reaching amicable agreements with the other side, but it is the best way to ensure you are protecting yourself.  The attorney can help you think of creative solutions, will help you make sure you are not forgetting to cover important issues in your agreement, and will advise you when you should say no.   If your goal is to try to reach amicable agreements with the other side, be sure to pick an attorney whose philosophy aligns with yours and who seems on board with helping you accomplish that goal, if at all possible.

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Holly Draper is the founder and managing partner of The Draper Law Firm, PC.  We asked her a few questions so you could get to know her a little bit better:

1.What do you enjoy most about family law?

I love getting to help people in what can be one of the more difficult times in their life.  It is so rewarding getting to help someone keep their kids safe or helping someone realize they really can stand on their own two feet.

2. How would you describe your philosophy as a family lawyer?

In general, I prefer to be amicable whenever possible.  It is easier on the heart, easier on the kids, and easier on the wallet.  I think when you start out amicable, it sets the stage for a much smoother process.  If you start out aggressive, it sets the stage for a fight.  There are certain circumstances where starting out aggressive is the right call, but I do not find that to be the case most of the time.

3. Tell us a little about your family / pets

I have been married to my husband, Rob, for almost 13 years.  We have two kids, Abigail (almost 11) and Jake (8).  We have an almost 13-year-old golden retriever named Sophie and a 1.5 year old Great Dane named Charley.

4. What is the favorite place you have been to in the world and why?

Last summer our family took a cruise to Alaska, and it was the most spectacular vacation ever.  We took a zodiac tour in Ketchikan, went on an amazing 8-hour glacier trek on the Mendenhall Glacier, held sled dog puppies, and just had the most wonderful time!

5. What are three items on your bucket list that you have already checked off?

Number one on my bucket list for many years was to take my mother (the world’s biggest Rangers’ fan) to see the Rangers play in the World Series.  We got to go twice.  Taking a helicopter tour to see the volcanoes and waterfalls in Hawaii and holding a stingray at Stingray City were bucket list highlights for me.

6. What are three items on your bucket list you have not yet checked off?

Hiking Machu Pichu, an African Safari, and seeing the Olympics in person

7. Who are your favorite professional sports teams?

Having grown up in Plano, my teams have always been the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers.

8. What sports do you enjoy playing?

I love to play volleyball and softball.  I also enjoy running races, especially if I can talk my kids into doing them with me.

9. What do you enjoy doing for fun outside the office?

I love traveling, reading and participating in our neighborhood book club, playing poker, and occasionally crafting.

Draper01

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When you need a lawyer, you may not even know where to begin. There are so many lawyers out there. We see ads on billboards, in magazines, online and on TV. But how do you determine which attorney is the best fit for you?  If you find yourself facing a divorce or a lawsuit involving your children, you need a family law attorney. There are many wonderful family law attorneys in Collin County and Denton County, but it’s important that you find an attorney that is right for you. As family law attorneys, we handle cases very dear to our clients: cases involving children, families, adoptions, terminations, etc. It is absolutely critical that clients interview attorneys until they find the right fit for them. Just like one key doesn’t fit every lock, one attorney is not the right fit for every client.

Finding a great attorney

So with all of the options out there, how can you find a great attorney?  In addition to researching an attorney online, personal referrals and referrals from attorneys in other areas of law are two great options.

Personal referrals – Talk to people in your community, including friends and family. They may have been in your shoes and know an attorney that they highly recommend. Ask specific questions about any attorneys they refer to you. Get as much information about each referral as possible, narrow down the list based on what you are looking for and then meet or talk with with at least one attorney yourself to see if you agree that he or she will be the right fit.

Lawyer referrals – Another good way to find a great lawyer is to ask another lawyer. You may know a lawyer who handles corporate law but not one who handles family law. Ask that corporate lawyer. That lawyer will almost certainly know some excellent family lawyers. The attorneys at The Draper Law Firm, PC pride ourselves on referring our clients to attorneys in other areas who have integrity and who will be great advocates for their clients.  We want to send people to attorneys who we know will take good care of them, and we know most other attorneys feel the same.

What should you look for when choosing an attorney?

Attorneys are definitely not one-size-fits-all.  There are a number of factors that may go into deciding which attorney is right for you.

Attorney Philosophy – Finding an attorney with a great general philosophy for handling your types of cases is one of the most important things you can do.  Does the attorney prefer to start amicable to try and reach agreements whenever possible?  Or does the attorney start aggressive and prefer addressing things in court?  The attorney’s philosophy is so important when deciding if that attorney can help you meet your goals, and certain philosophies tend to be a lot more expensive in the long run than others.

Size of Firm – The size of the firm may be an important factor in your decision.  Larger firms tend to have more support staff, fancier offices, and partners with lots of litigating experience, but larger firms (especially those experienced partners) usually come with a higher price tag.  Smaller firms and solo attorneys may or may not have just as much experience and may or may not provide more personal service.  Ask your potential attorney about his or her experience and how other attorneys and support staff in the firm may be involved in your case.

Communication – You have to be able to trust that your family law attorney has your best interest at heart. When the need for a difficult conversation arises, your attorney should be able to deliver the news in a way that resonates with you and take time to thoroughly explain the situation. Communication is key! You want to find an attorney who will communicate with you in a way that is effective, who truly listens to you, and who keeps you updated about what is going on in your case.

A good attorney will advocate for you and focus on your best interests and your goals.  By doing your due diligence, you can find an attorney that will be the best fit for you.

The Draper Firm

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If you ever find yourself involved in a family law matter (or you can envision yourself ending up in one down the road), you may wonder what you should or should not do.  Although many of these DOs and DON’Ts may seem obvious, rest assured all of these issues have actually come up in real family law cases in Texas (many of them multiple times).  With the input of dozens of Texas family lawyers, I have compiled the following list of DOs and DON’Ts to keep in mind:

DOs

  1. DO hire an attorney.  If you do not have the funds to hire an attorney, borrow them.  Take out a loan, borrow from your parents, etc.  Pro se divorce forms and google research are no match for a licensed attorney on the other side.
  2. DO follow your attorney’s advice.  There is a reason you are paying your attorney.
  3. DO tell your attorney any bad facts that exist for you in your case.  Attorneys do much better with that information in advance and do not like to be surprised by it in court.
  4. DO assume anything you put in writing will show up in a courtroom and be seen by a judge.
  5. DO keep a journal with dates and important information that you write down shortly after it has happened.
  6. DO use social media with extreme caution.  See No. 4 above.   Perhaps consider getting off social media completely.
  7. DO communicate with the other party in writing whenever possible.  Not only can it back up your position, but the best exhibits in court are often what the other side has put in a text or e-mail.
  8. DO keep texts and e-mails.  It is a good idea to screen shot important texts and e-mail them to yourself, as deleted texts can generally not be recovered.
  9. DO consider opening up a new e-mail address exclusively for communicating with your attorney.
  10. DO assume anything you say is being recorded.
  11. DO consider saving your questions and combining them into one e-mail or phone call for your attorney on a periodic basis rather than sending countless e-mails or making constant calls.  It will cost you a lot less for your attorney to respond to one lengthy e-mail or have one longer phone call on a periodic basis than to respond to multiple e-mails or calls daily.
  12. If you choose not to follow the advice in No. 11, DO remember not to get upset about it when you get the bill.
  13. DO try and obtain current statements and screen shots for all accounts.
  14. DO remember that your lifestyle is going to change significantly if you are getting divorced.  What once supported one household will now have to support two.  Start making a budget for post-divorce so you can figure out what life will look like for you.
  15. DO start actively looking for a full-time job if you have been a stay-at-home-parent.  Generally, you cannot be a stay-at-home-parent after divorce.
  16. DO remember you are not going to get everything you want.
  17. DO make a list of priorities to figure out what is most important to you.  See No. 16 above.
  18. DO focus on putting yourself and your children in the best position to move forward, instead of focusing on punishing the other party.
  19. DO remember that the court can’t miraculously make more money appear.  You can’t get reimbursed for $250,000 if the estate is only worth $100,000.
  20. DO assume you are being followed by a private investigator and act accordingly.
  21. DO provide whatever your attorney has asked you to provide by the deadline your attorney has given you.
  22. DO know your children’s teachers and doctors and be actively involved in your children’s lives, especially if you want primary custody of them.
  23. DO whatever you can to be a good co-parent with your ex.  Be the bigger person when needed.  Your children will be better for it.
  24. DO remember that you chose to marry this person or have babies with this person, and now you will have to deal with this person for the rest of your life.
  25. DO pay your attorney according to the terms of your fee agreement.  If you don’t, do not be surprised when your attorney withdraws.
  26. DO realize that your children love their other parent, too, and encourage that relationship as much as you can.

DON’Ts

  1. DON’T lie to your attorney.
  2. DON’T lie to the court.
  3. DON’T talk bad about the other parent in front of the kids or within ear shot of the kids, and DON’T allow anyone else to do so either.
  4. DON’T agree to take a drug test without first telling your attorney you have been doing cocaine (or meth or pot or some prescription drug for which you do not have a valid prescription).
  5. DON’T hack into your ex’s e-mail account.
  6. DON’T put stupid things in writing.  See No. 4 under DO’s above.
  7. DON’T compare your situation to your friend’s or family member’s situation.  Your situation is not the same.
  8. DON’T assume that your google research is better than your attorney’s research.
  9. DON’T start out messages to the opposing party with “I probably shouldn’t say this.”  If you have to say that, then don’t say it at all.
  10. DON’T date someone else when going through a divorce.
  11. If you are going to ignore No. 10, DON’T flaunt it, DON’T introduce the new boyfriend / girlfriend to your kids, and definitely DON’T bring your new boyfriend / girlfriend to court.
  12. DON’T post something, take a picture of something, or put anything in writing that you would not want the judge to see.
  13. DON’T bring your minor child to court unless you have been specifically ordered to do so.
  14. DON’T get pregnant with someone other than your current spouse.  A woman can’t get divorced until after giving birth, even if everyone agrees the husband is not the father.
  15. DON’T get pregnant with the spouse you are currently divorcing.  You will not be able to finalize the divorce until after the baby is born, and things just got more complicated.
  16. DON’T sleep with the opposing party, especially if you just had your attorney obtain a temporary protective order or temporary restraining order against him or her.
  17. DON’T listen to your sister’s boyfriend’s cousin’s friend about what should or should not be happening in your case.
  18. DON’T spend money or incur debt for anything other than reasonable living expenses and attorney’s fees.
  19. DON’T make it about revenge.
  20. DON’T ask your attorney if you should do something and then blatantly disregard his or her advice.
  21. DON’T expect your attorney to be able to do anything for you at night, on weekends or on holidays.
  22. DON’T drink and drive, not even a little.
  23. DON’T post pictures of your new boyfriend / girlfriend on social medial during your divorce.
  24. DON’T let your new significant other dictate how you co-parent.
  25. DON’T alienate your children from the other parent.  It is in your children’s best interests to have a good relationship with both parents.
  26. DON’T be petty.  Focus on what is really important.
  27. DON’T use bugs or tracking devices on the other party or your children.
  28. DON’T do drugs.  This includes pot and prescription drugs for which you do not have a valid prescription.  A positive drug test can be a ticket straight to supervised-only access to your children.
  29. DON’T assume an attorney will work for you for free or do pro bono work for you.  If you qualify for legal aid, go through the appropriate channels to find a pro bono attorney.

Do's and Don'ts

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Many clients have questions about mediation. They have heard the term but are not sure what it means or why it is advantageous when they have a list of demands and are pretty sure the other party will not agree to all of them.

Mediation is a very productive tool in family law cases. It is more of a collaborative approach to resolving a family law case and far less adversarial than going to trial and airing everyone’s dirty laundry on the record. Both parties are represented by counsel in mediation and are typically in separate rooms. A neutral third-party (the mediator) works with the parties and their respective attorneys in an attempt to reach a final agreement in the case. Many courts require mediation. Denton and Collin Counties both require mediation before final trial.

While each party to a divorce or child custody matter comes into the case with his or her own unique perspective and list of demands, if children are involved it’s important that they can each focus on the best interests of the child. Each party’s attorney will work to prepare them for mediation. They will give them the lay of the land and work on a proposed settlement offer prior to the day of mediation. It is important that the parties have completed and provided any necessary documents such as inventory and appraisements, proof of income and proposed possession schedules to their attorneys, if requested. This helps save valuable time in mediation.

Mediators can help parties and attorneys think outside of the box and get very creative with language to include in a final order. Further, the parties can agree to things in mediation that a judge could never order in a trial.  Examples include possession schedules for pets, creative ways to allocate community assets that are not yet liquid, and unique possession schedules for the children that are personally tailored to a particular family’s lives. Often, while each party has their list of demands, each tends to have different priorities.  By focusing on priorities, we can encourage a settlement that both are reasonably happy with.

Once an agreement is reached and the mediated settlement agreement signed, both parties know exactly what the key terms of the final order will contain. There is no guessing what a judge or jury will do. The parties don’t have to leave mediation discouraged only to find that the attorney needs to conduct more discovery, file more motions and prepare for a full day (or longer) trial in his or her case.

Best of all, after a successful mediation, parents can simply focus on moving forward with their lives and  their children without the worry of litigation looming. After mediation, attorneys will work to draft an order based on the agreements reached that will be signed by all parties and attorneys. That order will then be entered, signed by the judge and the case closed.  The order is usually significantly longer than the mediated settlement agreement, but the terms will all be the same. (Blog post by Soheyla Dixon)

The Draper Firm

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At The Draper Law Firm, we love adoptions!  One of the adoptions we often see involves a step-parent adopting the biological child of his or her spouse.  There are a couple of questions I immediately ask when someone inquires about a step-parent adoption:  (1)  What is the status of the other biological parent? and (2) If that biological parent is alive and hasn’t had rights terminated already, will that parent voluntarily relinquish parental rights?

In order to proceed with a step-parent adoption, the biological parent who is not involved must either be deceased, have had his or her rights terminated, or have his or her rights terminated prior to the step-parent adoption.  We generally do the termination and adoption in one proceeding, and they are often both handled in the same final  hearing.  The process is extremely easy if the biological parent will sign an affidavit voluntarily relinquishing parental rights.  (This post will not go into the process to terminate if that does not happen.)

In addition to terminating the biological parent’s rights, the step-parent will need to complete a criminal background check.  This is now generally done electronically, and the results come back quite quickly.  The step-parent will also need to complete an adoption home study.  The home study involves an added expense outside of attorney’s fees.  For the home study, the step-parent, spouse and child will meet with the evaluator and have a home visit.  They will also provide collateral references in support of the adoption.

Sometimes an attorney ad litem is appointed to represent the child in the case.  The court has the discretion to waive the ad litem if the judge feels the child’s best interests are adequately protected by the parties.  We have always requested that the court waive the requirement of an ad litem for the child in step-parent adoption cases, and that request has always been granted.

Once the background check and home study are complete, we prepare a final order and go finalize the adoption.   The child comes to the final hearing, and the judge will always participate in taking pictures with the family to help celebrate the occasion.

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